Dharma – Founder of Shaolin


Reviewed by: sukting

September 22, 2008

Rating: three

How long
20 episodes

Foreword
This is a story on Dharma coming to Mainland China from India. What has he experienced upon arrival? I am sorry that I can’t do much story-telling here as I haven't watched the drama for a long time.

A detailed synopsis of the review can be read from :

http://bluecrys.com/rev_dharma.html

Story/Introduction on characters

1. Dharma – Lui Leung Wai
A righteous and kind monk seeks to help others and uphold his beliefs to discourage bloodshed. Although totally unfamiliar with China, he takes up the position of chief monk of Shaolin Temple. He is a senior to all and Dharma manages to help Kwong to see that there are still many beautiful sides of the world. Unfortunately, he is poisoned to death by Wai Neng. Before dying, he passes the martial arts manual to Kwong so that he can reach a higher level.

Leung Wai did an excellent job. In fact, he was so obsessed with this character that he took up the same role in a 2000 production.

2. Wong Leung – Lai Hon Chi
He is the evil prime minister who does everything for himself. Kwong and Dharma are the thorns in his flesh so he must remove them. He is also highly skilled, so Kwong must master the skills from the secret manual to spar with him. His death is surprising – Kwong asks him if he is the one who killed the emperor’s brother. He answers yes but is shocked to see the emperor and Chiu Yee coming out of the bushes. He is too taken aback and Kwong seizes this chance to kill him.

3. Gek Kwong – Au Sui Wai
He is very reckless but determined in wooing Yee and also to seek revenge. He marries Yee but her beauty invites trouble. He is framed for murder and has to hide in Shaolin. He even cuts off his arm to force Dharma to accept him as his disciple. Even though she is later captured by Leung, he is unable save her. He concentrates on practising his skills and bringing up their son. He also becomes the next leader of Shaolin.

4. Gek Tak – Ng Chun Yu
He is the sensible elder son so his father pins his hopes on him to take over his position and hopes that Kwong will be like him one day.

5. Old Mr Gek – Lam Tin
A timid official who doesn’t dare to go against Leung. That is why he shakes his head whenever Kwong fights with Leung openly. Yet, he opposes to Kwong marrying Yee because he thinks lowly of her poor background. He is only forgiven after his grandson is born.

6. Wai Neng
He was once a bandit but Kwong lets him off and lets him become his servant. Later on, Wai Neng creates more trouble so Kwong has no choice but to send him to Shaolin to see if Dharma can tame him. He is bribed by Leung to kill Dharma and is blinded by Kwong. After being chased away, he becomes insane and dies.

7. The emperor – Lau Siu Ming
He is more into Taoism than Buddhism so he doesn’t attempt to stop the clashes between the Taoists and Buddhists. That causes the Shaolin abbot to worry about their fate and seek Dharma’s help.

8. Mr Luk – Bak Mun Piew
He is a woodcutter who wants the best for his children. He has no choice but to let Yee go into the army although he worries for her.

9. Chan Ping – Leung Hung Wah
Kwong’s servant who helps him to become a mature man after his family tragedy.

10. Man Tat – To Dai Yu
He is Leung’s adopted son who helps him in his evil crimes. That includes wiping out the Gek family. He takes over Shaolin Temple but annoys the other monks by eating meat and bringing women back. He is later killed by Kwong after he masters his skills.

11. Luk Yee – Chan Sau Mun
Her sewing is famous so Kwong gets to know about her. Her elder brother is sickly so she replaces him secretly to go into the army. She becomes good buddies with Kwong after displaying her wits and teaching him war techniques. They get married happily for a while. The king’s brother nearly rapes her and dies mysteriously one night. Kwong is labeled as the murderer and she is separated from him. She gets killed in the end after having clashes with Leung openly.

Although Sau Mun has a demure look, she is often cast as a strong-willed and decisive maiden in period dramas because she fits the bill. Her acting is brought to a maximum level in here too.

12. Princess Chiu Yee – Mou Shun Kwan
She looks demure and yet she is very determined. She falls for Dharma as she is captivated by his wisdom but knows that they can never be together. When she is forced to marry a prince outside her country, she runs to seek refuge in Shaolin. After Leung creates bloodshed, she returns to the palace. But she immediately shaves her head bald to become a nun.

Shun Kwan has acted as a nun in ‘Sword Stained with Royal Blood’ so she does well again in here. But her scenes are very limited. I only get to see her rescuing Yee after she leaves the palace.

Favourite character
Dharma, for his forgiving nature and wisdom. Unfortunately, he can’t foretell his own death.

Most hated character
Wai Neng, as his greed causes the death of a great master. He is too cruel, killing the person who fed and educated him.

Song
It is by Cheung Mun Mun again. This song is unique with the bells. I like his soothing voice but what a pity that he chooses to sing Chinese folk songs these days!

It seems that I began following dramas which he sings themesongs for. Another example is ‘Take Care, Your Highness!’. Tak Wah joked that he was becoming like him to do anything related to Chin Long. Although he didn’t act in ‘War and Remembrance’, he also sang the themesong for it.

Conclusion

‘Heroes from Shaolin’ runs in the same pattern as this one. The lead is formerly a happy-go-lucky spoilt brat but later becomes mature due to a family tragedy. It is also on the rivalry in the court and how the emperor dislikes Shaolin for producing talents. I wonder if the producer is the same person. Coincidentally, Dai Yu also acted as an evil person in there. No wonder, when he got the script, he realized the similarity and decided no more villain roles for him if he could reject!

I dislike the death arrangements. They are totally unnecessary. Aren’t monks supposed to have a good heart? Seeing how Kwong treats Yee make me feel very sorry for her. Revenge has blinded him to this extent of not even treating her with any warmth. That is not even as a friend or a relative. He only treats his son well. Probably he wants her to give him up completely. Her death only makes him more humane – if not, I doubt he will take care of their son.

The part where Kwong persuades Dharma to help Chiu Yee out of palace astonishes me. Can a woman stay in a sacred place with so many men? Moreover, she is the princess! Aren’t they afraid of being beheaded? That is really beyond my imagination!

The pace is very slow as it’s considered a male-dominated drama. If you dislike sadistic stories, this one isn’t suitable for you. But seeing how the cast act is a pleasure. You will hardly get such fine acting from the present stable of TVB younger artistes.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : *** (Scale of 5)

On story : **** (Scale of 5)

On songs : (Scale of 5)

Overall : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)



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